Liberty vs. Texas A&M (7 PM CT, Fox Sports Southwest)
After months of mindless discussion ranging from conference realignment to coaching changes to recruiting, all of the speculation and commentary can finally end.
Finally, it’s time to play some basketball: Texas A&M will kick off the hoops season for the Big 12 at 7 PM tonight with a home contest against Liberty in the opening round of the 2k Sports Classic. The Aggies haven’t lost a home non-conference game at Reed Arena since the 2005-06 season, but the Flames aren’t pushovers. They return several contributors from a team that reached the postseason and finished 19-13 in 2010-11, but they’re missing perhaps their best player in John Brown, who is out for the season with a knee injury.
Head coach Billy Kennedy won’t coach A&M this evening after his Parkinson’s diagnosis so assistant Glynn Cyprien is acting as the interim coach for the time being. His team will have to contain guard Jesse Sanders, a terrific assist man and an all-league selection. The Flames have a decent amount of experience surrounding Sanders, but without Brown– who averaged an eye-popping 10.8 rebounds per game last year despite his 6’4” stature– they may struggle to rebound against A&M. Compounding Brown’s absence Dale Layer’s team does not have much size on the front line. It starts 6’10” Joel Vander Pol at center, but he is on the skinny side at 225 pounds. 6’6” Antwan Burris should start opposite of him, and he’ll have a tough match-up with the forwards like David Loubeau.
If Liberty wants to pull the upset, it will have to find somebody to guard leading scorer Khris Middleton, but that’s a tough task for any team. In the end, A&M’s size and physicality should be too much for the Flames at home.